Something new is always a good idea

I’ve been enjoying learning the ropes from a cool bunch of writers on Facebook who are dedicated to writing LOTS of books. They say the more books you have out, the easier it is for readers to find you and thus, the better your revenue stream will be. That means money, to the writer. Crass and commercial as that may seem to some writers and readers, it’s impossible to not think about money. It gives the writer space to be creative, time to dream, and a reason to write another book.

Frenchman announcementAs my fifth book in my Bennett Sisters Mysteries launches I feel this effect. When I run some cheap ads on Facebook for the new book, people discover the whole series. Now at five, there is some heft, some reason for people to think about connecting long-term to these characters.

I’ve also been doing a blog tour for The Frenchman, the new one, and wrote this guest post about how the characters have changed, and I’ve changed in my understanding of them over the years. (See Beth’s post on Shelf Rider.)

As I launch the fifth installment in the Bennett Sisters Mystery series it occurs to me that one of the joys of writing a long series is the chance to really dig deep into the personalities of the characters. Although I originally conceived of the series as linked stand-alones about each of the five sisters, the first book, Blackbird Fly, centered on the middle sister, Merle. When I eventually continued the series, I continued Merle’s journey of self-discovery after the sudden death of her husband. It just made sense that one summer sojourn in France wouldn’t cure all her problems, lovely as France might be.

discoverFranceagainSo Merle has a Frenchman. Initially, like Merle, I didn’t see how a long-distance relationship with a man who lived across an ocean would work. How could she work in New York City and Pascal work all over France’s wine country and they continue a romance? Because, although I didn’t write the series as a romance, women have love affairs— have you noticed? And they like to read about them. Merle’s affair with Pascal might have just been a fling, a curative, that first summer. But as the series goes along it’s obvious that Pascal thinks of it as something more. Although Merle isn’t sure what he thinks— he’s a Frenchman and you know how they are— her feelings mature, especially in this fifth book.

Their relationship is an underpinning in the novels to intrigue, sisterhood, and the joys and trials of mid-life. The sisters range in age from 40 to 55, or so, and I try to find aspects of women’s lives that are interesting and challenging. Life can be hard but reading about how other women make choices and navigate the pitfalls is helpful and revealing to me, and I hope to readers.

As a writer you never know how readers will react to your characters. Will they think them weak and stupid for their choices? (Yes, I’ve had that review.) Or will they identify with them, cheer for them, hope for them? That’s what I live for, that identification from the reader. I am not an Everywoman myself. I am opinionated and cranky and sometimes not that nice. Also, funny, a good friend, a loving parent— I hope. We all have so many aspects. I see some of myself in each of the five Bennett Sisters. I am a middle sister myself though, that’s why Merle appeals to me.

I recently had a review of Blackbird Fly that made all the writing worthwhile. (I love that readers are still discovering the series.) A reader said “The main character, Merle Bennett, could have been me, though I’m not a lawyer, have never inherited a house in France, and never had her problems. The writing puts you in the book.”

Right there, that’s why I write.

Then, if you love France like I do, the reviewer says that for her, at least, I got something right: “I’ve spent enough time in France to know that Albert, Mme Suchet, and the others in the village who snubbed, helped, or sabotaged Merle are just so … French. The story unfolds just as it should along with Merle’s self-discovery and personal regrets.”

And so Merle’s journey continues in The Frenchman. Who is the Frenchman, you ask? There is of course Pascal, Merle’s Frenchman. But there are many more in this book, policemen and old villagers, young punks and charming neighbors. And in Merle’s novel, chapters of which are included in the novel, there are Frenchmen from the Revolutionary period: farmers and rebels, nobles and royals, villagers and strangers. I had such fun writing Merle’s novel— which will be fleshed out and published separately as well— about a goat-herder who flees the terror in Paris for a farm in the Dordogne. Merle calls it ‘Odette and the Great Fear,’ and it will be available soon as an e-book.

I hope your writing and reading goes well as we ease into chilly weather– the best time to read and write! Happy autumn.



Get with the New

The beginning of a new year often brings renewed energy, or, at least at my age, the hope of energy. Yes, I just had a birthday and am feeling it. But life trundles on, joyous, monotonous, crazy, and unpredictable.

I have made exactly one new year’s resolution and so far I have kept it. I resolved to write a review online of every book I read in 2015. This seems doable (the most important part of a new year’s resolution.) I can write a review on my blog, or on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads. So far I have reviewed Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron, Divas by Rebecca Chance, Fatal Affair by Marie Force, Murder in the Marais, by Cara Black, and Memory Man by Helen Smith. Love my female authors and kick-ass heroines.

IMG_0893We had another, more important birthday in the family in the new year, a brand new baby girl born to my son and daughter-in-law. Being a grandparent is sort of a wonderful bonus at any age, a ‘good on ya’ for somehow managing to raise your own kids. A fragile new life makes that seem all the more miraculous. How did I manage to keep my own children from harm? (Vaccinations! Helmets! Cookies!) Not only that, raise them into loving, happy men? I have no idea but my husband says it was all me so I’m going with that. 🙂

FullSizeRender-3The other new thing at our house is technology. After nearly five years and a scare over the holidays I am retiring my Macbook Pro to light duty and PhotoShop. My new workhorse is a Macbook Air, all sleek and shiny. I guess it’s time to start a new novel. Last fall I promised readers a new novella in the Bennett Sisters series before Christmas. It nearly killed me but I got it done. Unfortunately the stress of finishing just a few days before Christmas meant I had almost nothing going for the holidays except higher blood pressure. But the family came, I made a decadent chocolate creme de cassis cake, Santa came, we wore elf hats, and the stress dissolved into merriment. I think it was the chocolate!

How is the new year treating you? Keeping those resolutions? Stay warm, friends!